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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Too Much Concentration of Social Services in Newport's West End?

We all know the line: “Give a man or woman a fish and he/she will eat for a day, teach them to fish and they will feed themselves (and their family) for a lifetime!” This is 
exactly what Brighton Center and Neighborhood Foundations and others are attempting in the West End of Newport.
 
But, why there?
 
Some residents of the West End of Newport rightfully feel their neighborhood carries the burden for all of Campbell County, and Northern Kentucky, when it comes to social services. The largest social service agency in all of NKY has multiple locations in the West End: a senior citizen housing complex, offices and meeting rooms for case managers, a financial services center, a used clothing closet, a family center and a food pantry just to name a few. 
 
Which came first, Brighton Center or the poor? (Maybe we should ask Brighton Center’s founder, Father Bill Neuroth?) Do poor people flock to the West End of Newport for the “free” services? Or, does a social services agency locate near where their customer lives? 
 
The argument made often by those social service agencies is that services must be located near the poor so that the poor can easily access those services. Kyle Randall, a 
West End Neighborhood leader, and others would argue that this social service placement results in further concentration of poverty.
 
How about the West End demographics? From information gleaned from the American Community Survey’s database, data you supplied to the US Census Bureau, here are some very startling comparisons: 
 
The State of Kentucky’s poverty rate is 18.77%.
 
Campbell County’s is 13.0%
 
The City of Newport, as a whole, is 23.55% 
 
In census tract 505, the heart of the West End of Newport, the poverty rate is 42.4%. 
 
Some time ago, the West End of Newport had the dubious distinction of being the home of the two census tracts which had the highest percentage of single female head of households living in poverty in all of the US! 
 
We know education attainment level correlates to success and independence in life. In the census tract 505 in Newport, Kentucky, only 59.5% of the adult population has even a high school diploma. Of all the 994 census tracts in the State of Kentucky this is the 47th lowest in high school graduate levels. Some census tracts in Eastern Kentucky rank better!
 
So, how do we break this long standing cycle of dependency? There are models available in the State of Kentucky. The four Family Scholar Houses in Louisville are examples. Their mission is very simple:
 
Family Scholar House is changing lives, families and communities through education. Our mission is to end the cycle of poverty and transform our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency.
 
Their early results indicate they will achieve their mission! 
 
Attendance, participation and achievement of the scholar living is demanded! And their results are measured! Among other requirements, residents must be full time students and must maintain a 2.0 grade average.
 
The early results in Louisville, where this program came on line in 2008, are impressive: 61% of the participants in the Family Scholar House in Louisville complete their post-secondary education and move out into self-sufficiency. By comparison, some statistics indicate that nationwide as few as 35% of entering freshmen will complete their post-secondary education.
 
Editor's note: An earlier version of this opinion column made references to the Family Scholar House programs in Louisville that may have implied that the program is the same that is underway in Newport through the work of the Brighton Center. Family Scholar House uses a distinctly different program than what will be used in Newport, though it is the same program that will ultimately open at the former Lincoln Grant School in Covington. The Scholar House in Newport is funded by Kentucky Housing Corporation’s Scholar House Set Aside. There is no connection between the Scholar House program in Newport and the Family Scholar House programs that operate in Louisville. RCN regrets the error.
 
Brighton Center and Neighborhood Foundations will soon open half of the 48 housing units in August of this year in time for the fall semester. The other half will come on line in September. The onsite daycare facility, which allows time for the parents to attend classes and focus on their education, will be available as soon as the first family moves in. 
 
In addition to the above requirements, participants must agree to attend life skills workshops and monthly meetings with a case manager.
 
So, if this is “not in my backyard”, NIMBY, tell me where in NKY you would suggest NKY Scholar House be located? In Triple Crown, Villa Hills, Park Hills, Fort Wright or 
Fort Thomas? How about on the campus at NKU?
 
I just finished a conversation with a neighbor, a very reputable landlord here in Newport, who indicates that he is now renting to the third generation of families on housing assistance.
 
Tammy Weidinger, CEO of Brighton Center, hopes that two generations are affected by this program and the cycle of dependency for these families is broken. “Success is 
measured not only in the head of household’s completion of their post-secondary education and attainment of self-sufficiency, but also within their children who now see in their parent a model for themselves.”
 
Despite the 50 years of Brighton Center’s efforts to eliminate poverty in the West End of Newport, the concentration of dependency continues. It is time to try something else. 
 
By all indications this is a program that might be successful in breaking the multi-generational aspects of ingrained dependency. 
 
When it comes to the site selection for this NKY Scholar House project, there may have been better sites which would have resulted in less concentration of poverty. But, the site has been selected, the project is nearing completion and excited, new scholars will soon be filling the units and heading back to school! 
 
The Northern Kentucky Scholar House is accepting applications here or call Scholar House Housing Manager (859) 581-2533, ext. 207.
 
The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.